Living life as an expat has its ups and downs but the experience for most people is a positive one. You have explored different countries, learned a new language – or languages – immersed yourself in a culture different from your own, and lived a day-to-day life that is considered exotic by many standards. Now, it’s time to come home.
However, the transition from the “current familiar” to the “old familiar” may be more challenging than you expect. In fact, it may be just as daunting as moving to a foreign country was when you first did it. As you begin the process of repatriating, take time to adjust to your situation and don’t expect that everything will be just the same as when you left.
You May Experience Reverse Culture Shock
Remember that feeling when you first moved to another country, how everything was strange and unique? You may feel that way when you return home. What was once your familiar may now feel fuzzy and strange, and ways of doing things may feel awkward to you. You haven’t necessarily forgotten what home was like, but you may have adapted your habits and attitudes to a new standard, and it’s not uncommon to feel somewhat displaced in your own country when you initially repatriate.
Allow yourself to feel and experience the strangeness of being home, and to appreciate the breadth of opportunity that living in another country has given you. Be patient with yourself and those around you, and know that just as you began to feel at home as an expat, you’ll soon begin to feel at home in your native environment.
Tend to Business
Repatriating isn’t just about moving home it’s also about reestablishing yourself and your identity in your native country. Depending on how long you have been away, you may have a long to-do list with regard to banking, finances, insurance, medical care and other personal and household related administration.
Make a priority of going to the bank and of calling credit card companies to notify them of your change of address. It’s likely that any home or auto insurance policies that have lapsed will have to be reinstated. Taking time to be thoughtful and thorough in re-establishing accounts and coverage can help focus your attention on being home and getting things done, and provide a sense of normalcy to your days.
You may also want to schedule an appointment with your doctor upon return to your country. Actually taking the initiative for a personal medical repatriation can not only provide you with a general wellness check up, it can be an opportunity to discuss emotional concerns with a provider who can offer assistance and guidance if necessary.
Agree to Social Gatherings
It may feel overwhelming to be the focus of attention upon your return, but remember that people are excited to see you and hear about your adventures. You may also be surprised to find that certain friends have changed in your absence. Just as you approached living in a foreign country and meeting new people with an open mind, you should do the same once you have repatriated.
If you are moving back to Canada, for example, spend some time reading about the political and cultural events that have taken place while you have been gone. This can provide insight into why things may feel different or awkward, and they can also be a way to start meaningful conversations about your experiences while you have been away.
Don’t Ignore the Itch to Travel
You may feel restless when you get home. That’s perfectly normal. But before you plan your next foreign escapade or pack your bags, ask yourself if you are running away from something or just seeking a different environment. Your problems will follow you to your next destination, so take the time to identify what is at the root of your need to travel. Expats tend to lead nomadic lives, and the very nature of being an expat is transience. Don’t be afraid to embrace the need to travel, but at the same time be conscious of your intentions.
Consider taking the time to explore your own territory. Investing emotionally and intellectually in your home country can be just as rewarding as living in a foreign place. Seek out other expats and invite them to be part of your domestic adventure. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people can help you feel less isolated or awkward when you have repatriated.
Repatriating can be as challenging as it is thrilling. Going home can mean carrying a lot of emotional baggage, especially if you moved to a foreign country to get away from the familiar. In some cases, treating repatriation with the same sense of adventure as moving to a different culture can help ease the anxiety and exhaustion of being home.